Spoilers abound. Beware.
2002’s The Ring was a genuinely creepy film. In the original film (and by that I mean the American version; I’ve yet to see the Japanese film Ringu on which The Ring is based), Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her young son Aidan (David Dorfman) stumble over a videotape which unleashes the really creepy ghost of Samara (Daveigh Chase) to come and kill you. The only way to avoid having your soul sucked out by this creepy cocktail-sized creature is to pass the tape on to someone else within seven days. If someone else views the tape within one week, you’re off the hook, and that person becomes the Samara’s target. Rachel unknowingly unleashes the evil Samara upon the world (after her son accidentally watches the tape), and at the end the two of them manage to pass the tape on and spare themselves from soul-suckage.
That brings us to The Ring Two. Rachel and Aidan have relocated to escape the horror of the ring, but unfortunately their past catches up with them pretty quickly. It turns out that copies of the tape are now circulating on the black market. Watching the tape and getting as close as you can to the seven-day mark before passing the tape off to a friend and narrowly preventing Samara from showing up to eat your face has become a popular pastime amongst teens (at least they’re no longer trying to hurt themselves by imitating Jackass stunts). This would have made an interesting movie; unfortunately, this side plot is abandoned about ten minutes into the film.
After a local teen gets to meet Samara up close and personal, Rachel knows what’s up. She uses her journalistic skills to drive to the crime scene, sneak into the ambulance, view the body, have her first encounter with Samara, go to the police station, try and interview the witness (a shell-shocked girlfriend), and then go back to the crime scene to break into the house and steal the tape. She then drives off into the woods, dowses the tape with gasoline and ignites it.
Of course that doesn’t stop Samara – otherwise it would have been a short film (and we would all have been the better for it, trust me). As it turns out, Samara doesn’t need people to view the tape any longer to waltz in and out of the real world. Images of the tape begin appearing on televisions (usually around little Aidan) which allow her to slide into the real world.. Her new goal is no longer to “make people suffer”; it’s to become a real little girl (like Pinocchio, but meaner). Her plan to do this involves moving into Aidan’s body.
Thrown into the middle of all of this is Rachel’s co-worker Max Rourke (Simon Baker), who thinks he can somehow help Rachel and Aidan out. After being convinced of Samara’s existence by looking at some digital pictures on Aidan’s camera (Max has never heard of Photoshop apparently) Max decides the best way he can help the two of them is to bring the possessed kid to his house. When Max prematurely made his exit from the film, I felt a little jealous that he didn’t have to stick around through the whole film like the rest of us.
Apparently the reason for all of this ties back to the original movie. In it, Rachel entered Samara’s alternate reality and enabled her to escape by freeing her from the well in which her mother drowned her. Turns out, she never shut the lid. Of course Rachel the journalist can’t put the pieces of the puzzle together, so she’s forced to go interview the evil Samara’s birth mother Evelyn (Sissy Spacek, no stranger to creepy film moms herself) who is resting comfortably in the cuckoo house. Evelyn gives Rachel the lovely advice of “listening to the voices in her head and killing her son to set him free” So then it’s a race back to the house, where Rachel must decide whether or not to kill her son, to face Samara one last time, and to enter the alternate television reality and fix the can of worms she opened in the original film.
Why am I telling you all of this? To save you the rental fee. The original Ring had tension, it had suspense, it had atmosphere and it had terror. Sure it wasn’t the best horror film of all time but at least it was something. The entire idea of the Ring videotape being passed around gets quickly shoved aside for a dopey detective story that the viewer has no chance of solving. Literally dozens of clues and hints are dropped and abandoned as quickly as they arrived. We see flashes of a suitcase that, although discovered, doesn’t mean anything. We hear people whistling a tune that never met each other and I guess is supposed to explain to the audience that there’s a connection between people, but whatever it was went right over my head.
The stupidest part of the entire movie is the (poorly done CGI) deer attack, which occurs shortly after little Aidan begins seeing Samara again. Not only can the little undead bitch scamper in and out of television sets, eat people’s souls and even possess little boys, she can ALSO control DEER! Is there anything this little lady can’t do folks? So what’s the significance of deer in the film? Got me! As Rachel goes back to investigate Samara’s home, she finds deer skulls in the basement. AH so now it makes sense! Oh, wait, no it doesn’t! What’s the connection, why are there deer heads in the basement and what does it have to do with the entire frickin’ story? Has Bambi gone mad? Have Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen gone berserk? WE’LL NEVER KNOW! ARGH!
The Ring Two starts off on the right foot, but quickly shifts into a bad Murder, She Wrote episode and ends up as a Poltergeist parody. If you haven’t seen the first Ring movie, definitely rent that one instead. And if you have already seen that one and you’re thinking about renting this one, rent the first one again and just pretend it’s the sequel. The Ring Two feels like a direct-to-video release or maybe even a made-for-television movie. Samara deserved better.